The Best Player in Women’s Soccer Is Skipping the World Cup

Hegerberg is not injured, nor did her country fail to qualify. Instead, she is sticking to a decision she made to two years ago to quit her own national team out of long-simmering frustration with Norway’s soccer leaders.

“It is about respect,” she told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten in late 2016, months before she finally renounced international soccer. “And I think that women’s football does not have the respect it should have in Norway.”

The last straw for Hegerberg was the team’s disastrous campaign at the 2017 European Championship. The two-time winners of the tournament finished with no points and no goals. Going forward, she decided, that would also mean no Hegerberg.

On her way out, she bemoaned inequalities in investment in men’s and women’s soccer, particularly at the youth and club levels where she felt opportunities were skewed toward developing boys. According to interviews she gave to the Norwegian press at the time, she was also unimpressed with the level of ambition inside the national team setup. Her energy, she said, was better spent focusing on her club soccer with Lyon.

In Norway, where the women’s team historically has been far more successful than the men, Hegerberg’s parting shot made national news. Hegerberg had broken into the lineup when she was just 16. By the time she was 22, she appeared in national ad campaigns as a Norway player for three different sponsors. She averaged better than a goal every two games, putting her on pace to break Norway’s scoring record long before her 30th birthday.

And yet, she told the Norwegian press, “I always felt I was a worse player when I got home from national team camps. That shouldn’t be.”

Through her agent, Hegerberg declined to rehash her precise reasons for the split and didn’t comment for this article. But while the story is old news in Norway, the World Cup starting on June 7 has put the spotlight back on the dispute. Two years on, many in the sport still can’t quite believe that she would skip the chance to star on women’s soccer’s biggest stage.

“Why exactly is Hegerberg not playing with Norway?” former U.S. national team player Heather O’Reilly tweeted after Norway unveiled its Hegerberg-less roster this month. “If Messi or Ronaldo opted to not play in a World Cup the world would know why not with clarity.”

U.S. striker Alex Morgan replied, “I would like to know as well.”

Since Hegerberg’s exit, the Norwegian federation has undertaken radical changes. In late 2017, it committed to paying both of its senior national teams equally, with the men’s team giving up a portion of its fees to make up the difference. Then, last summer, Norway became one of the few federations in the world to appoint a woman, ex-player and practicing lawyer Lise Klaveness, as technical director of the men’s and women’s national programs.

But Hegerberg’s complaints run deeper. She has said in the past that the mentality of the elite program was too restrictive, that the ceiling was too low. Klaveness has made it a priority to convince her that things had evolved. After all, she knew where Hegerberg was coming from: Klaveness herself had quit the national team between 2007 and 2010. The last time they spoke was at a meeting in January.

“It was an open conversation, but she made it clear that she had made a choice and the consequence of that choice was not to go to the World Cup,” Klaveness said. And while Norway respected Hegerberg’s decision, Klaveness added that she hoped she might reconsider down the road.

Except over the past two years, Norway and Hegerberg have thrived without each other. Though the team remains far off the heights it reached in the early 1990s, it sailed through World Cup qualifying and even knocked off the defending European champion Netherlands once along the way.

As for Hegerberg, she has continued to scale new heights with Lyon, a French superpower that has turned serious investment by its owner into 13 consecutive league titles. She has twice been voted BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year. Last December, Hegerberg collected the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or award as the top player in the game—although the ceremony was briefly interrupted by a bizarre and insulting incident in which a French DJ asked her on stage if she knew how to twerk. She put him in his place with a firm, “No.”

“He could have asked something different,” Hegerberg said after the sexist remark went viral. “Like how it felt to win the Ballon d’Or or a question about football.”

Microsoft CEO responds to employee criticism of company’s contract with ICE

.. The contract being criticized by Microsoft workers is for the Azure Government product, a cloud-based service that Nadella said in his memo only supports ICE functions such as mail and document management. “I want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with the U.S. government on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border,”

.. He said Microsoft’s “engagement with any government has been and will be guided by our ethics and principles.” He slammed the administration’s border policy, calling it “simply cruel and abusive.”

Russia Finally Gets Its #MeToo Moment

The #MeToo moment has arrived in Russia. It took months longer than it did for many other countries that often take cultural cues from the United States. But, considering the near-total obliteration of public space under President Vladimir Putin, it is perhaps surprising that it has arrived at all. Russian media are almost totally controlled by the state; the social networks consist of genuinely disconnected bubbles. Still, a highly public conversation about sexual harassment and assault has finally begun.

.. During the course of the last four weeks, several women, including journalists who work in the Duma—the Russian parliament—have come forward with stories of being harassed and assaulted by a prominent Duma member, Leonid Slutsky, who is the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The women’s accounts were published by TV Rain—a once thriving independent television channel that is now almost exclusively online—and on the Web site of the Russian service of the BBC. The BBC Russian Service correspondent Farida Rustamova published the transcript of an audio recording in which she tried to resist Slutsky’s advances.

.. In the days following the publication of Rustamova’s story, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova—ordinarily no friend of journalists from opposition media—spoke about having been harassed by Slutsky herself. The politician’s pattern of harassment thus became a matter of officially sanctioned public record. The journalists who had come forward, meanwhile, filed formal complaints with the Duma; on Wednesday, the Duma ethics committee took up the issue.

.. On the one hand, nearly half of the Russian workforce is female. The Soviet Union was probably among the first countries to ban sexual harassment: a 1923 law introduced penalties for men who used a woman’s financially or professionally dependent position to coerce her into having sexual relations. At the same time, sexual harassment is common and often blatant. (Four years ago, for example, another prominent Duma member, the head of the misnamed Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, was caught on camera directing one of his aides to “go rape” a pregnant Duma reporter who had asked him a question.)

.. The TV Rain producer Darya Zhuk then told the story of being harassed by Slutsky four years ago. When she was finished, Arshba said to her, “Your emotional statement has no factual value.” In conclusion, the committee voted to take no action against Slutsky.

.. In response to the committee’s decision, Russian media outlets began, one after another, to pull their correspondents from the Duma. As of Friday, thirty-six outlets had joined the boycott. It was an extraordinary occurrence. The Duma is effectively an appointed body that rubber-stamps the Kremlin’s legislation. The overwhelming majority of Russian media outlets are either directly and openly or indirectly but still relatively openly controlled by the Kremlin. But now the fake parliament and the state-controlled media were engaged in what looked like real conflict.

.. The Russian Duma has approved the annexation of Crimea, has enabled wars in Georgia and Ukraine, has rubber-stamped laws that fuelled the persecution of dissidents and queers—and much of this legislative action involved violations not only of human rights but also of norms of decency and of legal procedure, such as it exists in Russia. Why, then, would allegations of sexual harassment be able to break a compact between the authorities and the journalists?

.. Perhaps because, unlike the wars and the political persecutions, the harassment is part of the journalists’ own lived experience.

.. In this case, Russia provides an illustration of both the limitations and the power of the politics of lived experience: it does not guarantee solidarity, political empathy, or even decency, but it can rouse people to action when all else has failed.